Schemes to revitalise Wantage town centre have received a major seal of approval after the town was short listed for a national award.
Wantage has made it to the finals of the Great British High Street Awards, which recognises innovative town centres where projects bring more people and business to the area.
With the number of a vacant shops increasing, in 2013 Vale of White Horse District Council appointed two market town co-ordinators, Mim Norvell and Iain Nicholson, to oversee a series of revitalisation schemes in Wantage to help bring the town centre back to life.
Just 18 months later and projects such as a community space, pop-up shops, a town prospectus, free wi-fi, engaging with young people and businesses, and a regular calendar of community events, have helped the town’s vitality. The number of empty and available shops has dropped to just four, and interest from businesses looking to come to the town is now at record levels.
The Great British High Streets Awards is run by the Department for Community and Local Government’s Future High Streets Forum, which brings together leaders across retail, property and business to better understand the competition town centres across the country face and to drive forward new ideas and policies.
The awards look for new ways to boost high streets and ideas that can be shared with others that can help high streets evolve. Applications are assessed on innovation, collaboration and outcomes.
Next week representatives from the Future High Streets Forum will visit Wantage to look round the town prior to deciding the award category winners, which will be announced at a ceremony later in the year.
Cllr Elaine Ware, Cabinet Member for Economy, Leisure and Property at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “This is fantastic recognition for the work that has been carried out in Wantage. The projects have involved people from across the town working together with each other, the district council, the town council and local businesses in a real community effort to breathe new life into the centre and bring shoppers and retailers back.”